Thursday 31 March 2011

Day One of the Big Pare Down . . .

Sooooo . . . yesterday we began paring everything down. I can't tell you how happy Todd is that I have finally seen the light! He has been trying to tell me for years now that I have too much stuff. For a guy that is a "place for everything, and everything in it's place" kind of guy, I am way over the top sometimes and it drives him up the wall!

I was so very grateful for his help and for once he didn't make me crazy. I thought he would be a bit upset at all that we were having to get rid of, as he hates waste more than anything else. I do too, or else I would not have been hanging on to all of this stuff.

We decided that we would begin in the Kitchen. We were going to start upstairs, but after much thought I realized that it was best to begin in the room that we use the most and that we would feel the greatest impact in. Once done, it would be a great impetus for moving forward. I love to cook, and the kitchen is the hub of our home. It has been so frustrating to me trying to cook and do things in 1 foot of counterspace . . . having to dig through oodles of stuff to find what I needed to cook with each time I went to do anything . . . having to dig through oodles of ingredients to find the things I wanted . . . even something as simple as Vanilla was a chore to find. Oh, I knew it was in there somewhere, but just where was a mystery to me! To every cooking session you could add at least 30 to 45 minutes of searching time!

Very early on I discovered that my back and my knees were not going to allow me to crouch down and sort out the cupboards by myself. At the very best I was only able to sit on this little step stool we have and direct Todd. (Another indication of how very bad my weight issue has gotten. I am not ginormous by any stretch, but have gotten large enough that it is beginning to affect my mobility and ability to do even simple things like this)

It has become clear to me that if I can't see something I can't use it, or I forget that it is there, and that has been a large problem with much of what I had stored in the kitchen. I could not see a lot of it. My baking cupboard was so stogged full that whenever I opened it to get something out, it would take me at least half an hour to find what I was looking for and when I did, it was only because the avalanche when I opened the door revealed it to me . . . now it is all tidied up, alot of the out of date things are gone (the birds will enjoy) and I know exactly what I have in there. All those accessories to the food processor that I have NEVER used, and will NEVER use are out in the shed, which is one step closer to the tip!

Look at this cupboard under the sink. It is neat and tidy now and I know exactly everything that I have in there!! That does look like an awful lot of vinegars though, doesn't it. Sigh . . . why on earth I need so many kinds is beyond my comprehension, but then again . . . at least vinegar is not fattening and I am going to be eating a lot of salads so it will come in useful there. I had two huge lasagne baking dishes. I don't need two huge lasagne baking dishes, especially when there are only two of us and one of us hates lasagne, and so one has been taken out and earmarked for the Charity shop. I kept the beautiful Emile Henry one Todd bought me for Christmas a few years ago. It was expensive . . . it's red (one of my favourite colours) . . . and Todd gave it to me, even though he hates Lasagne. Three very good reasons to keep it.

The little trolly we bought so that I could have extra counter space has been tidied up and organized. Unbelievably, I discovered the bread bin was filled with biscuits and chocolate. I can't even remember putting them in there. A few went into the bird bin, but Todd will be chowing down on Snickers bars and a few other tidbits for more than a little while. Thankfully he is one of those people that can eat whatever he wants and not gain an ounce. In fact he has trouble keeping weight on!

I even managed to pare down my pots and pans. We had three sets. One cheapo set we had bought when we first got married . . . wait, I LIE! We had four sets. The cheapo set, one that was a wedding gift from a friend, one that we bought from a Dutch man who sold them to us from the boot of his car in our driveway and a really expensive set (worth over £215) that I recently bought for a mere £14 using a gift certificate from CSN Stores. Guess which one we kept? Bang on! I may be crazy but I'm not stupid! The rest are destined for the charity shop as well.

It was so refreshing to see clean countertops and everything in it's place and a place for everything. Todd was so good . . . he never once voiced any displeasure at the waste, although I know he had every reason to. He was such a good help to me and I appreciated it so very much. He is the best husband anyone could ever want. I do love him so.

We had to keep Mitzie out of the kitchen for most of the morning by putting the baby gate across while we were working, because . . . there was just too much in the way of tempting stuff there for a puppy to endure. She didn't like that very much. She just loves to be a part of all that we are doing, but afterwards when we were done, and she was allowed back in, she gave our job the Mitzie stamp of approval! (Whew!)

All in all it was a very productive day. We got a lot done and I was well pleased with the results. Today we tackle the dining room and lounge.

I also wanted to thank you all so very much for all your comments and support. They meant the world to me. It was nice to know that I am not alone in the way I was feeling, and that it struck a nerve in many of you as well. That must mean I'm not quite as crazy as I thought I was!

Isn't she a pretty girl? I couldn't live without her now. (Even if she has managed to chew her way through all of her stuffed toys now, including the teddy bear that came with her when she arrived. I have a whole basket of them waiting to be mended.) Look at that innocent face. The other day Todd had cut himself a piece of fruitcake and gotten himself a drink, then decided he needed to go to the loo. So . . . he put the plate with the cake on it down on the coffee table along with his drink and went upstairs. I happened to come in shortly after and there she was . . . sitting next to the coffee table, kindly holding his cake for him . . . in her mouth. She hadn't started to eat it . . . she was just holding it for him . . . keeping it safe, you know. At least, that's what she told me, and just who am I to quibble with a face like that???

The English Kitchen, thick pea soup. Just perfect for a cold, windy, and rainy day like today!

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Keeping it Real . . .

Sometimes you just want to sit down and cry . . . I had such a day as that yesterday. It was nothing in particular, and then again it was every thing. Things just got a bit on top of me. I had the missionaries coming over for their supper and I had promised to make one of them a Pecan Pie, and everything just seemed to be going wrong . . .

I have this beautiful new stove that we got just before Christmas last year, and I have had a lot of problems coming to terms with it. It's really up to date and it takes a near genius to figure it out, with it's 8 precision cooking functions and all the bells and whistles. Half of the time I am not sure I am using the oven properly as it seems to take twice as long as it should for anything to cook in it. Yesterday, for instance, a pie that should have taken slightly less than an hour . . . took me all morning. That kind of thing really upsets me, although I know it shouldn't.

I sat here afterwards on the sofa just thinking about all the ways I complicate my life, and most of it has to do with me always having to go the extra mile in everything I do. I seem to never be able to do anything halfway in my life . . . I am a hoarder and a collector and I jumble up my life with tons of stuff that I will never use and never need. I fill my days with too many things to do and too many projects . . . so that half of them never get finished and some never even get started.

I go on diet after diet, having a small modicum of success with each of them, and then eventually failing at all of them too. It's just excess after excess. Food, books, crafts, etc.

Even blogging . . . I started off with one . . . and somehow have ended up with more than any sensible person should ever have!! And it is not enough for me to be mediocre at any of them . . . I have to be the best at each of them because I am an over-achiever, and always have been.

My larder is bulging with food, partly because we practice food storage like our church leaders tell us to . . . and partly because when I see a good deal on something I cannot just buy one of it . . . I have to buy two or even three! Sometimes it's not even something that I will use two or even three of . . . but it was a "buy one get one free", or a "three for the price of one" deal, and I just couldn't resist . . . even though in all likelihood I will probably end up having to throw away two of them, because . . . honestly, it wasn't something that I use much of at all in the first place.

And I do this over and over again in my life, in all areas of my life, overcomplicating and crowding and stuffing it until I run out of room. I know where I get it from too . . . my mom is just the same. If you go to her house she has one closet downstairs just filled to the brim with toilet paper . . . and most of the time there is only her in the house to use it. She also has three closets filled to the brim with beautiful clothes and beauty treatments up the kazzoo! Need a bar of soap??? Well, she's got a thousand of them, and in almost every variety you could want! Oh, and if you open her cupboards you are sure to find spices in them, and other goods that expired ten years ago . . . don't even get me started on the refrigerator . . . She can put her fingers on every electric bill she has ever had, and every other bill as well. She throws nothing away. The only difference is she is quite neat about it all, and everything has it's place . . . me . . . well, I not very good at putting things away.

Anyways, I thought about it all yesterday and I realized I am tired of being this way. I need to cut back. I need to be ruthless and just get rid. There are things in this house that we have not even looked at or unpacked since we moved in a year ago. It is time to give them away. I am going to start with each room and go through them one at a time and everything that we haven't used in the past year and anything that we don't think we will ever use or need is going, as much as it hurts.

I am starting the One Step Program for weight loss on Friday. I was referred by my GP because I really need to lose weight. A lot of weight. I have put back on all the weight I lost three years ago, and then some. My clothes don't fit and I feel uncomfortable all the time. When they refuse to operate on you because of your size . . . that is a big sign that you need to make a change. So that is another area where I will be getting rid. I probably won't be putting a recipe on here every day anymore. I cannot afford it financially . . . and I cannot afford it physically. This will be just a place for my thoughts and muses . . . and if I lose some readers because of it . . . it will not be the end of the world, and I may not even write every day . . . although to be honest . . . I probably will, because . . . I love it so very much.

I will keep my recipe blog going, but I may not even post there every day and I am certainly going to take stock of the kind of food I am cooking, and the way that I am cooking it.

Oh, this is going to be so hard for me I know, but I need to tell myself that I just do not need every cooking magazine going . . . nor do I need 50 rolls of toilet paper, two big tins of quality street and 20 bookcases filled with books, half of which I have never read and at least a quarter of them that I never will. Nor do I need three sets of pots and pans, two breadmakers etc. etc.

So I am having a clear out, starting today. Wish me well!

I just had to share this chocolate cake recipe with you today though . . . coz it's my favourite you know . . . and it will probably be a long while before I have chocolate cake again . . .

*Wellesley Fudge Cake*
Makes one double layer cake, serving 16 people
Printable Recipe

This has long been my favourite chocolate cakes. Rich and fudgy and quite delicious!

4 ounces of unsweetened Chocolate
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 free range large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Chocolate Frosting:
4 ounces of unsweetened Chocolate
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 pkg. (16 oz.) icing sugar (about 4 cups), divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake tins and set aside.

Place the chocolate, 1/2 cup of sugar and water in a large microwaveable bowl. Cook on high for 2 minutes, or until the chocolate is almost melted, giving it a stir after 1 minute. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Cream the butter and remaining sugar together in a large bowl with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating after each until well blended. Beat in the flour mixture, alternately with the milk. Stir in the chocolate mixture and the vanilla, mixing it in well until no white streaks remain. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing from the pans to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Melt the chocolate for the frosting in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly. Set aside to cool.

Beat together the butter with an electric whisk until creamy and then beat in half of the icing sugar, a little at a time until thoroughly mixed. Beat in the remaining sugar, the vanilla, milk and melted chocolate, beating until you have a creamy mixture with a spreadable consistency. Use this to fill and frost the cake layers.

Cut the cake into slices or wedges to serve, depending on whether you used a square or a round pan to bake the cake. Delicious!

And over in The English Kitchen today, there is a delicious Lasagne!

Tuesday 29 March 2011

The Simple Woman's Day book

FOR TODAY, March 29th, 2011...

Outside My Window...

It's clear and cool. The day promises to be very nice. We best enjoy it as it won't last. It is supposed to turn to rain by the end of the week. It is hard to believe, but this is my last day book entry of March! Is it just me, or is this year already racing by at the speed of sound???

I am thinking...
It will have been a year in just a couple of days since we moved back to Chester. A lot of things have changed in that year. Last year, at this time . . . our heads were just reeling at all that had happened to us in just a few short weeks, loss of job, home . . . Jess . . . we were really standing on the precipace of the unknown and it was so very frightening. We didn't have any idea of what the future held for us, but we had our faith and each other. Really that's all anyone needs I guess . . . faith and someone to love. So here we are a year later . . . we have our faith (still!). We have each other (still!). We've got Mitzie (a joy!). We had to give up our new car, but we were blessed with a really good second hand one at a really decent price. We lost Angie, which still breaks my heart, but Lura and John have been preserved, a real blessing. No full time job, but I do have my rubber stamp thing, which while it doesn't provide a ton of money for us, it's a start, and I get to be creative. The year has been a happy mix of good and bad, which is all anyone can ask for in their lives.

I am thankful for...
Well the thing that I am most thankful for this week is that Lura and John are still here!!! I spoke to her again yesterday via the telephone and she sounded even better. She has her computer in her hospital room now so she is able to read and your messages mean the world to her. You can leave one anytime you like on Grammy's News. It is expected that she will be in ICU for at least another week. She is still in a lot of pain, which is to be expected, but she is here and she is alive and she is oh so loved by oh so many! Please continue to pray for her as she needs your prayers so very much. Her friend Sil has updated her page again with more news and was flying out to Utah to be with her last night so that she can stay with her in the hospital during the week. What a blessing that will be for Lura. If you read this Lura. WE LOVE YOU!!

From the kitchen...
There are some scrummy bars I made yesterday, but other than that not alot. The missionaries are coming for their tea tonight and I promised them a Pecan Pie, so I will be baking one of those today. I am also making a lasagna. Did you hear Todd groan . . . ugh!!! Never mind, he'll eat it and enjoy it anyways! (Coz I said so, that's why!)

I am wearing...
A blue nightie, white jim jam bottoms, my blue robe and my slippers. I know, an odd combination, but very comfy and so me!

I am creating...

This is my latest creation. I quite like her. As always she is available as a print or a notecard. I also continue to work on designing new stamps. If you would like to see the ones that are already available you can check them out here.

I am going...
It's a very quiet week this week really. We have a Relief Society extra meeting on Thursday evening which I am going to. We are supposed to bring in a jam jar and some of the extra special acts of service we have been the recipients of. It sounds like it will be an interesting evening. Then this weekend is our church's General Conference. I love General Conference. I love listening to our leaders speak and the wisdom they have to share with us. I love listening to the Tabernacle Choir. It is always so very inspiring from the beginning to the end.

I am reading...

Tatty, by Christine Dwyer Hickey

I am still reading and still loving this book. As the story begins, we are in 1964, and Caroline, known as `Tatty' to her family, is 4 years old. Her nickname is a play on the words tell-tale-tattler - she earns it because she's unable to keep secrets. She lives near Dublin with her Mam and Dad and her sisters - Jeannie who is two years older than her and Deirdre who has learning difficulties - and her two younger brothers.

Tatty's parents are drunks who have a volatile relationship. Tatty is particularly close to her Dad, and at times her Mam is very jealous of this closeness. As her parents' relationship breaks down, her mother's drinking becomes steadily worse, and she becomes more aggressive towards her children as they witness their parents' unhappiness.

Warm, sweet, funny, sad and unsentimental. A great read thus far!

I am hoping...
My greatest hope at the moment is that Lura continues to improve and that John stays well, and that things get back to normal for them as soon as possible.

I am hearing...
Early morning sounds . . . the house cracking and snapping as it comes alive. The birds are singing loudly in the back garden. We noticed yesterday that they have been stealing straw out of one of our planters, so they are definitely nesting. The tadpoles in the pond have hatched so with any luck the bird song will soon be joined with the ribbeting of frogs!

Around the house...
Ironing. Ironing. and more Ironing. Because we don't have a clothers drier we end up having to iron just about everything. sigh . . . One day I will have a clothes drier.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Not a lot really. It's a pretty quiet week. I might be able to crack on with my spring cleaning then, which actually sounds like a lot of fun to me! Tis good to clear out the cobwebs and get things sparkling again, don't you think!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Saw this and fell in love with it. I think it will look quite nice framed and hung in our bedroom. Who doesn't love Mr Darcy! It just ain't human not to!!

And just as a closing thought for today . . .

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously.... Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.

~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1811

I love Jane Austin. So prim and so proper and so wise. I think I shall dig out my copy of Pride and Prejudice and watch it later on today . . . sigh . . . I just love Colin Firth.

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!

Here's a delicious pork chop recipe that I adapted from an old cookbook of mine by Taste of Home, called Country Pork. You can't beat Taste of Home for good and tasty recipies! It's good old home cooking. The original recipe called for cooking the pork chops on a barbeque grill (covered). Todd is not a barbequer person. He doesn't really like it, so I adapted the recipe to cooking it under my oven grill. It's delicious!

Photo from Taste of Home

*Cordon Bleu Pork Chops*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Pork chops marinated and then stuffed with ham and cheese and grilled to delicious perfection! Oh so tasty!

4 bone in pork loin chops, cut 1 inch thick
1/2 cup of tomato ketchup
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of white vinegar
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
2 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
2 TBS minced dried onion
1 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 tsp of garlic powder
1 tsp of dry mustard powder
4 thin slices of fully cooked ham
4 slices of part skim mozzarella cheese

Combine the first ten ingredients in a plastic shallow container with a lid. Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture to use when grilling the chops and set it aside. Cut a pocket into the side of each pork chop. Add them to the marinade, turning them to coat. Cover with the lid and then place in the refrigerator to chill overnight, turning them occasionally.

When you are ready to cook them, remove them from the refrigerator. Drain well and discard any marinade left in the container. Place a cheese slice on top of each slice of ham. Roll up jelly roll style. Insert one ham/cheese roll into each pocket in the pork chops. Secure with toothpicks.

Heat up the grill in your oven to medium. (Broiler) Place the chops onto a grill pan and grill, turning and basting occasionally with the reserved marinade, for 25 to 35 minutes, until the pork is cooked through and all the juices run clear. Remove the toothpicks and serve. I like to serve salad and escalloped potatoes with these. Delicious!

Over in The English Kitchen today, some very tasty Nutell-O's!!

Monday 28 March 2011

Monday morning ponderings . . .

I was able to talk to Lura for a short time on the telephone yesterday. It was so lovely to hear her voice. I know she is in a lot of pain, but the medication helps to keep it under control a lot of the time, and having her family there with her also helps to distract her somewhat. She does appreciate having phone calls, much for the same reason, they are a most welcome distraction.

She shared with me a special story about a blessing that she was given by a man in the hospital who happened by. I wanted to share it with you.

In our church we believe that all worthy men, and young men over the age of 12, hold the Priesthood, which is the power and authority of God . . . to both act in His name and to call upon His power here on earth. One of the special gifts of the Priesthood is to be able to lay your hands upon the heads of individuals and, with inspiration from above, give them special blessings from our Heavenly Father. These could be blessings of comfort or strength, of healing, of special counsel. I have been the recipient of these blessings on many occasions and I can attest to the comfort and the inspiration they render to such an individual . . . and to the deep seated belief that they truly come from our Heavenly Father.

I cannot remember the exact wording that Lura shared with me, but she was told by this man that her Heavenly Father had saved her because she was not yet finished her work here on earth. I believe this to be true.

Look at this car . . . that anyone walked away from this alive is a miracle from above. Surely Heavenly Father has a special plan for her and for John. From the minute I heard about the accident and all that had occured I knew in my heart that they had been saved for a special purpose, and I was so very grateful for that.

When you look at our everyday lives as a gift from God . . . and as our gift back to Him . . . life begins to take on new meaning. One little puzzle of the purpose that our Heavenly Father has planned for each of us since the beginning of the Universe. This makes each day so very exciting as we approach our lives with all the joy and excitement of discovering all the divine appointments He has in store for each of us.

Nothing happens by happen-chance, or co-incidence. I don't believe in co-incidence . . . only God-incidence . . . each blessing, large or small . . . each miracle experienced, a truly divine signature from above . . . signed personally with an unmistakable signature, so that we will know with certainty that it comes from Him . . . that He lives and that He cares about each of us in a deeply personal and individual way.

Even when our trials seem beyond our ability to bear, our faith can be strengthened and made stronger by being able to identify the tender mercies of the Lord that truly abound in our lives and that help to lead us closer to Him. We only have to be willing and open to seeing them as they truly are . . . not luck, or co-incidence . . . but as the fingerprints of a Heavenly Father, and a reminder to us that He is truly there, and He does care.

They may not come as something so dramatic as a freakish car accident (and I pray that they don't) . . . they may only be something tiny and almost unremarkable . . . but they are there if we choose to see them.

Just my thoughts today.

In the meantime please do continue to pray for Lura and for John and their family. They need our prayers as much as ever. Lura is having a difficult time breathing which is understandable considering her injuries, but she needs to be breathing deeper, to keep those lungs working and moving. Pneumonia is a very real possibility in cases such as this and she needs to keep her lungs clear, which is not easy with all her broken ribs and the pain they are causing her. Please pray that she will be able to overcome the pain and be able to work her lungs in the way she needs to do, that she will be able to breathe deeper and to cough up anything in there that needs coughing up! Also please continue to visit her page and leave her your comments of support. Her daughter reads them to her every day. I know that they uplift her beyond measure and that she appreciates them all so very much.

Here is a delicious recipe that is not that difficult to make. It is not something you would want to have too often as the calories in it must be out of this world, but a once in a blue moon treat never hurt anyone!

*Alice Springs Chicken*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Chicken, honey mustard,bacon, mushrooms, cheese . . . what's not to like about this!!

1/2 cup of Dijon mustard
1/2 cup runny honey
1 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil
1/2 tsp of lemon juice
4 boneless,skinless chicken breasts
1 TBS vegetable oil
2 cups of sliced fresh mushrooms
2 TBS butter
salt, pepper and paprika
8 slices of streaky bacon, cooked
1 cup of Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
1 cup of cheddar cheese, grated
some finely chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish

Wipe your chicken breasts. If they are really thick, place them between two sheets of cling film and pound them until they are about 1/2 inch thick. Place into a shallow container in one layer. Combine the mustard, honey, 1 1/2 tsp of oil and lemon juice in a small bowl with an electric hand whisk for about 30 seconds until completely amalgamated. Reserve about 1/2 of the marinade and then pour the rest over the chicken breasts. Cover the container and then refrigerator for at least two hours. Cover the remaining marinade and chill that as well.

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and discard the marinade. Heat a large skillet with an ovenproof handle over medium high heat. Add 1 TBS of the oil and then sear the chicken for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Set aside for a few minutes. Melt the butter in another skillet. Saute the mushrooms in the butter until golden. Season the chicken pieces with a bit of salt, pepper and paprika. Stack two pieces of cooked bacon crosswise on each piece of chicken. Spoon the sauteed mushrooms over top, covering each breast evenly. Sprinkle both cheeses evenly over top. Bake in the preheated oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and the chicken is completely cooked through. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and then serve immediately, with the reserved marinade on the side for dipping.

Over in The English Kitchen today, a tasty teatime treat, Strawberry Jam Swirls!

Sunday 27 March 2011

Marie's Sunday Six . . .

As many of you know, my good friend Lura and her husband John were in a terrible car accident on Friday. This did not make me smile. Aux the contraire . . . I spent most of yesterday in a fog of tears and on my knees in prayer. I have prayed continuously on my own, out loud, silently and together with my Todd. Lura is the best friend that I have ever had. From the moment we connected on here we felt a very special bond, an eternal bond. We both know that we have always been friends. That we were friends before we came to this veil of tears we call the Earth . . . . that we have been so blessed to have been able to find each other here on the Earth, even though we may live thousands of miles apart . . . that we will still be friends when we live this Earth. That makes me smile. The living thousands of miles away part doesn't . . . but knowing we are eternal friends does. I am so very grateful that she and John are holding their own and that they have survived this horrible accident. The fact that Lura is in so much pain does not make me smile either, but knowing that it could have so very easily have gone the other way and that she is still with us, despite the pain . . . that makes me smile in a very big way . . . but then Lura, always makes me smile.

Lura is one of the kindest, dearest people I know. She gives so freely of her spirit and her time and her love.

Serving in the Temple with her husband each week. I know that she is often in pain because of ongoing problems with arthritis etc., but still each week she goes to the Temple and works for the Lord, serving Him lovingly and Faithfully.

Serving her family in every way possible. I have been so blessed to have been able to spend time with her and John and their lovely family and was able to see first hand the beautiful relationship that they have together. Lura and John's children and grandchildren are all lovely people.

They are a wonderful testimony of the strength of good Parenting and Grandparenting skills, and a prime example of what can go so very right in our l ives when you walk the Lord's path, and in His footsteps. I am so grateful that she and John are surrounded at this time by the love and ministering hands of their family. That is a wonderful thing.

Serving her friends. Lura is the best friend that anyone could possibly ever have. When she is able to, she calls me every week. We spend at least an hour on the telephone each time, laughing together, sharing together and even crying together. When I have something special to share, she is the first person I want to share it with . . . both the good and the bad. I know that she is a good friend to all who are lucky and blessed enough to be able to call her their friend. I know that she gives generously of her time and her love to all her friends. The old and the new and the inbetween. She and John are wonderful people. I think they should have a sign over their front door that reads . . . "There are no strangers here, only friends we have yet to meet."

Serving her community. Lura is a good citizen. She worked for years as a Teacher and I know that it was not always easy for her to do so. I know that sometimes her students were not all, or even close to being what they should have been, and that some of them were often very difficult to handle, and rude and inconsiderate. There were many who weren't and they were the lucky ones because they got to experience first hand what a wonderful and giving person this very special lady is. The ones that were difficult and stroppy truly missed out on knowing what I think is a National Treasure.

Serving her church family. Lura has always been a wonderful example to me of someone who honours her callings to the best of her abilities . . . even when it is not easy to do so, or when she would rather be doing something else, she serves and she smiles and she does it with all sincerity and all of her heart.

I know that some of you would be thinking now that I think that she walks on water, but the really beautiful thing about Lura and about John is their humility and tender spirits. They do not do any of the things that they do because they expect anything in return. They serve others because they love the Saviour. They do not serve because they want accolade or huge pats on the back . . . they do it in a humble and selfless way, because it is in their very natures and core to want to give back to Him who so freely gave so much to each of us.

I know that many of us cannot be there in person to minister to Lura and to John, but we can minister to them with our prayers of healing, comfort and thanksgiving. We can also send them cards and letters of support. Those can be sent here:

Utah Valley Medical Center
1034 North 500 West,
Provo, UT 84604

She is in Intensive Care and will probably be so for a few days at least. In the meantime do keep up the prayers and if you would like to leave a message for her, you could do so on her blog, Grammy's News. I just know she would love to hear from you and that her daughter is reading her the messages that have been left. Her friend Sil, is also updating her page as she receives news about Lura and John's conditions. Keep the prayers coming!

I have no recipe here today. Between all the prayers, and having lost an hours sleep with the spring Time change, I just could not get it together this morning, but there is a tasty recipe over on The English Kitchen should you want to go over and have a gander. It is a tasty Apple and Blackberry Crumble Pavlova.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Update on Lura and John

(Lura freezing her arse off in Idaho, just for me, two winters ago in Idaho)

I have had an e-mail from my friend Jan, who is also a very good friend of Lura, and goes to her Ward. She and Kris have been able to speak with Lura. I will copy the e-mail verbatim here:

She is at Utah Valley Medical Center
1034 North 500 West
Provo, Utah 84604

(If you would like to send a card. I think that would be really nice if everyone sent her a card, don't you! Her full name is Lura Staffanson)

Could you please post this.

Kris and I just talked to her. The most horrible part was that John was knocked out from a blow to the head and she thought he was dead because there was so much blood. She said she called to him begging his not to leave her, and then she heard a moan and knew he was alive. She said there was blood everywhere but that miracuously Ellie's sealing dress got no blood on it. Everyone is at the Temple now doing the sealing, but will all come to her side when it is over.

She is so weak, but thrilled to talk. She says it all there is to do to keep away the pain for a minute or two.

I told her that we talked and there are prayers for her being sent to Heavenly Father from around the world.

So far so good. Please continue to keep them in your prayers. I thank you so much for this. Apparently it will be at least 5 to 6 weeks before she will be well enough to return to California. I am so very grateful that she and John have survived this accident. It could so easily have gone the other way and I praise God for not taking them from us. I don't think I could stand to lose another dear friend so soon after losing my Angie. Please hug your friends today and tell them you love them. You never know when it will be too late.

Prayer Request

This is my dearest friend Lura with her husband John. Lura and I became friends through blogging. There was an instant connection between us and we were so blessed to have been able to meet in person a couple of years ago and spent a whole week together in Utah and Idaho when our Eileen was competing in the World Special Olympic Games. Lura and I have always felt like eternal friends . . . from the beginning we had this special connection that felt like we were long lost buddies finding each other again . . . a special blessing here on earth.

We talk on the telephone pretty much every week and often wish that we lived closer to each other. She is very dear to my heart. Earlier this week we spoke about how she and John were going to be travelling to Utah to go to a special family occasion that was up and coming. They would be leaving right after their stint in the Temple on Thursday evening. They often do this and I always pray for their safety.

Lura and John were involved in a serious car accident on Friday, March 25th, in Nephi, Utah. Lura and John are going to be OK, but Lura is in Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, where she was transferred from Nephi. They were travelling on the freeway at about 70 miles per hour when the car in front of them lost control on the ice, spun around and hit them head-on. They were then knocked across the freeway into oncoming traffic and hit by a semi-truck. John sufffered a head injury and multiple bruises and contusions, but Lura has a lot of fractured ribs, broken sternum, and serious bruising, and many injuries they are still diagnosing. They are concerned about her developing pneumonia because people with broken ribs don't take deep breaths.

Lura is the sweetest, most loving, dearest woman I have ever known. I love her so very much. She is the best friend I have ever had and I hate living so far away from her, especially at a time like this. I want to be doing something more than all that I can do, which is pray.

I would ask that you uphold and keep them in your prayers please. I am just devastated by this news. I will let you know more when and if I can. Thank you so very much. Lura, Angie and I were like the Three Musketeers . . .

Poetry Saturday, Sap's Running

Sap's runnin in the maple trees
The smell of sod is in the air,
Although the wind is raw and cold;
The feel of spring is everywwhere,
This morning 'ere the sun came up
I saw a robin zooming down,
A hardy pioneer no doubt,
Looking up housing in the town.

The maple bush is all alive
With light and shade and pitted snow,
Blue smoke is drifting through the trees;
Above a hill I heard a crow
Giving a broadcast of events,
To fellow crows who listened in,
From the split rail atop the fence.

On every rutted tree there hangs
A shiny pail to catch the sap
As drop by drop it slowly falls
From the small nozzle of the tap,
In the pale liquid clear as wine
A few small twigs and leaves have blown
Combining with the frost and sun
To give a flavour of their own.
~Edna Jacques

Oh the memories this poem brings back to me this morning . . . of early spring trips into the sugar bush with my children. The smell of the wood smoke, the air cold and crisp . . . the smell of maple sugar boiling . . . that tasty treat of a maple lollipop at the end. Oh, I do love my Maple Syrup. I think I get that love from my father . . . how I long for some tasty Maple Candies or a bowl of Maple Walnut Ice Cream. That has always been my father's favourite ice cream. You cannot get it over here. I guess I shall have to dust off the ice cream maker and make my own!

When I came over here to live in 2000, I brought with me on the airplane a big 2 litre metal container of Maple Syrup. It was soooo heavy and you could never get away with that now, post 9/11 . . . but we did so enjoy it. Of course you can find Maple Syrup here these days, at a premium price and every so often I do splurge and buy myself a little bottle. Ahhh . . . memories of home.

When I was a child I can remember my Aunt Thelma sending up beautiful Easter Breads to us each year, stogged full of fruit and decorated with icing and candied cherries. This recipe here today reminds me of them. Bless her heart . . . she did not have a lot of money as a single mom with a houseful of children, but she shared what she could with us. As an adult now myself, I can truly appreciate the generosity of her gift, and the love that she must have had for my mother to do so . . .

*Easter Surprise Buns*
Makes 16 buns
Printable Recipe

A lovely bread roll with the hidden surprise of a hot cross filling inside! They make a delightful addition to your Easter Morning breakfast or brunch!

For the buns:
1/3 cup dried currants
3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (1-pound) loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
(Or one loaf of white bread dough made in your breadmaker on the dough cycle)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

To frost:
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 to 3 teaspoons milk

Make the filling by placing the currants, brown sugar, 3 tablespoons softened butter, orange peel and allspice in small bowl. Mix all together well.

Separate the bread dough into 16 equally sized pieces. Place one teaspoon of the currant mixture into center of each piece drawing dough around it to form a ball. Dip the ball into the melted butter. Place into an ungreased 8-inch square baking pan, seam-side down. When all the dough balls are placed in the pan, drizzle with melted butter. Cover lightly and then let rise in warm place until double in size (about 45 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Place the buns in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and wait a few minutes before removing completely from the pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine all frosting ingredients in small bowl, mixing together well. Place the buns on serving platter. Place frosting in resealable plastic food bag, cutting a very small tip from one corner. Decorate the top of each bun with cross. Serve.

Over in The English Kitchen today, a tasty Chocolate Fudge Cake.